The Well


by Andrew Shaw on Aug.23, 2009, under Archives

This post will be the first of many on the topic of meditation.  Meditation is something that I use both personally and professionally.  I have been meditating for many years, I teach mindfulness meditation, and I use mindfulness-based concepts with many of my patients in my psychotherapy practice.  Meditation has been around for thousands of years, but has only just started to gain more attention in the West for its health and wellness benefits.  For the science-minded, over the past decade, there has been a growing number of research studies on the effectiveness of meditation.  It improves focus and attention, increases present-centeredness, reduces stress and anxiety, improves mood and attitude.  It can be helpful for dealing with difficult emotions, thoughts, and pain.  On a deeper level, meditation can bring one insight, a sense of understanding, connection and well-being.  Many of you probably have some familiarity with meditation and maybe you’ve tried to practice it as well.  For those of you who are new to meditation, it is a relatively simple practice but one that takes much commitment and consistency to really take hold.  The aim is to become more mindful, aware of the present moment with acceptance.  There are many types of meditation and ways to practice.  Hopefully you’ll have a chance to come back often to the WeeklyWell to read and learn more.  Today, I’ll give you some instructions for a concentration breathing meditation.

Find a quiet, comfortable place where you can sit for a few minutes.  Bring your attention to your breath by noticing how it feels in your body to breathe in and out.  You can place your hand on your belly and feel the rising and falling as you inhale and exhale.  Just notice this rise and fall.  All your attention comes back to your breath over and over.  The mind will stray to thoughts, planning, worry, etc.  You may be distracted by sounds or sensations in your body.  For now, with this meditation, when you notice the mind has wandered away from focusing on the breath, just gently bring it back.  Notice breathing in and out, in and out.  It may be helpful to use a simple word to coincide with your breathing that you can say to yourself.  For example, you can say “rising” or “breathing in” as you inhale, and “falling” or “breathing out” as you exhale.  Just use your breath and your word to focus your attention.  This is the main point to concentrate your full awareness on.  It is your anchor or home-base.  When the mind wanders, gently come back to your breath again and again.  Try this for a few minutes.

Over the course of this year, I’ll expand on this basic meditation and offer all sorts of other meditations and ways to be more mindful, present and aware.  When learning meditation, it can be very helpful to have support and guidance.  Many communities have weekly sitting groups, to learn, practice and gain support.  If you live in the L.A. area, I know of many groups and also lead several at A Deep Well.  Please let me know if interested.  You can also post any questions or comments here. 

Be Well


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